From experiencing disruption to undergoing transformation, the public relations industry has begun to brace up to new challenges, a survey shows.
Apart from the ever-changing technology, rising expectations from corporates and rapidly evolving media trends have kept PR consultants on tenterhooks during the previous year, the survey conducted by the Public Relations Council of India (PRCI) -- the national body of PR, media, advertising, HR, marketing professionals -- shows.
The organisation conducted an opinion poll ahead of its 12th Global Communication Conclave to be held at Pune in March next with the theme "Transform or Perish".
"While it is given that PR consultants have to cope with the technological developments sweeping across the media universe, a major challenge lies in the pace with which the transformation, and not mere change, has to take place," PRCI National President B.N. Kumar told IANS.
"PR practitioners are now forced to keep pace with the social media challenges to deliver the message to their target audiences and react with equal speed to reports that may impact the image of their clients," he added.
"The growing usage of social media, WhatsApp and other digital platforms has caused significant disruption in the brand communication space," said Mitu Samar, Founder of Eminence -- a reputation management Company.
Focus was also on the unforeseen changes the government communication has witnessed. From tweets to the month-end Mann Ki Baat broadcasts have transformed the Prime Minister's messaging landscape. Also, there is the government's increasing focus on the social media, rather than the traditional media, that kept the brick-and-mortar model on the run.
"I will not say that the government and political communication have come of age. They have been transformed by technology," said S. Narendra, adviser to former PMs and ex-Government of India spokesperson.
"Twittering helps in speed. If PM or an official spokesperson tweets before breaking the news, he or she gains the upper hand in spin," he further added.
"The government's PR machinery really went out and improved the perception manifold. Proof of the success was that no one really said demonetisation was wrong, but only its implementation," said David Franklin, President at Concept PR.
The icing on the cake -- or Thepla for the saffron -- was the success of its rejuvenated political communication that helped it win Uttar Pradesh by a convincing majority, he continued.
"Globally, the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning and deliberations on using these techs in PR hold a long term advantage for clients as well as for the PR industry. The structure is set to become efficient with the removal of avoidable manual intervention. Professionals can now focus on value-added services that can't be performed by robots. This trend would soon come to India as well," said Praveen Kumar Singh of Integrated Brand-comm Pvt. Ltd.
"The biggest change in the global communication industry in the coming years is going to be the emergence of social media as a key channel of communication," said Vijay Lakshmi, Executive Editor, Intermedia.
"While the print media has already been overshadowed by the electronic media, the PR industry not only needs to harness the electronic media for conveying its messages but it needs to be forward-looking and turn to social media as its key channel of communication going forward," she said.
"Like MoJo, or mobile journalism, is here to stay, MoPR too would become the order of the day as PR practitioners too would be needed to function against time and flash-of-a-second deadlines," said Mrityunjay Bose, Chief of Deccan Herald's Mumbai bureau.
"The year 2017 has truly been a transformative year for the PR industry where consultancies adopted integration of digital media and also mastered the art of creating integrated PR campaigns," said Richa Seth, Account Director, Adfactors PR.
PR is not complete without crisis communication. From political leaders to emergency ambulance services to corporates, crisis has engulfed all and will continue to do so.
"In my experience of advising various companies and individuals on reputation, 2017 communication practice highlight has been the need to have a well-articulated and practiced crisis communication plan," said Mitu Samar.
"This not only saves administrative efforts when a crisis hits but lets the company focus on the well planned response methodology -- right from sourcing trustworthy information, identifying spokespeople, crafting holding statement to disseminating its stance articulately and timely to the target group," she said.
"Digital communication has thrown up its own share of crisis," said Richa Seth.
"We are also witnessing many brands struggling to manage their reputation online, increasingly consumers are sharing their experience -- positive and negative -- with the brand on social media. This makes it imperative for communication professionals to understand the strategy for managing a Digital Crisis," Seth added.
Digital crisis has impacted political communication in a big way, going by the likes and trolls that one witnesses. The Gujarat election campaign has seen a new low of communication.
But many communicators feel that it was a year of transformation for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as his strategy and tactics seem to have changed.
"He goes on a much-ridiculed vacation and a new improved version emerges, for the first time, at Princeton College. He talks with a new confidence and tweets with the best. Puns and jokes flow endlessly," concluded Franklin.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)